First-year head basketball coach Dustin Belcher has his Wahconah Warrior boys 5-1 heading into conference play and a matchup against Mount Greylock today.

Belcher is in the process of putting his stamp on a Wahconah program that was under the direction of longtime coach Ed Ladley.

Although there are some differences in dealing with girls and boys, Belcher said his time as a softball coach at Wahconah has helped him prepare to lead the basketball team.

"When I took over [the softball team] from Ken Pease, it was a matter of giving [the program] your own signature," Belcher said. "Having gone through that experience helped me with basketball."

Belcher added that it's important to know the pulse of your team, and how to properly motivate and guide them.

"The way you address issues is different between guys and girls, but in both cases they all want to win, and they're all competitors," he said. "Each team has it own personalities and you have to know what buttons to push."

Ladley, now an assistant coach, is still at practice everyday to provide advice and support for Belcher, but the philosophy of the team is very much Belcher's.

Belcher is the youth coordinator at the Dalton CRA, and is in the process of unifying the "Warrior Way" from the youth leagues to the high school.

"[As a head coach], you have the ability to experiment and try things that you might just suggest as an assistant," he said.

"I'm trying to get the players to buy in not just for this year, but for the long term. Our motto is ‘leave the program better than you found it.'

"We want to build long-term success, even down to youth leagues and by working with those coaches."

Belcher credits team captains Marco Anastasio, Marcus Duncan and Collin Parrott as key parts in the Warriors play. Parrott, in particular as the point guard, is in charge of setting the pace and being an additional set of eyes for Belcher on the court. Parrott said playing for Belcher, his father, hasn't been much of a transition for him and he respects his coaching style.

"He'll let me know as his son and the captain of the team what he sees so I can help the other players -- that helps a lot," Parrott said. "Coach Ladley is more laid-back, but Belcher will get on you and he's more intense, but it's a good atmosphere."

With conference play beginning, the Warriors will be tested early with games against Mount Greylock, Lee and Lenox.

For Belcher, it's about relaying a consistent message to his team, but it's up to the players to buy in. Heading into conference play, it's apparent the players are on the same page with their new head coach.

"With every team that you coach, there's going to be challenges. With the kids buying into the philosophy, it has made my transition smoother," Belcher said. "We've talked about taking it one game at a time. The goal is to compete for a North [Division] title. ...We're focused on getting better every day and giving 100 percent so there's not regrets."

"We say we're starting over [heading into conference play]. The last six games were big, but we're starting over and working hard every day," added Parrott.

To reach Akeem Glaspie:
aglaspie@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @THEAkeemGlaspie.